How to Eat Safely and Travel With an Autoimmune Disease

“Visiting regions like Western Europe where it’s easy to replace medications is also helpful,” he added. If specialty drugs are lost or confiscated, patients can contact their health insurance’s or drug company’s patient support programs, which typically provide a rescue supply of medications through a local specialty pharmacy or hospital (depending on the country). For generic drugs, patients can usually go to local pharmacies to get a short-term refill.

Supporting the body’s immune system is key to staying healthy while traveling. Ryan Warren, a clinical nutritionist at the Jill Roberts Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian steers her patients toward local, fresh, seasonal foods while traveling abroad. “Every patient’s dietary needs are different, but I recommend fresh fruits and vegetables (well cooked, skinned and de-seeded if the patient is avoiding high roughage foods), lean proteins like fish, poultry and eggs, and a variety of whole grains, nuts, nut butters and legumes, as tolerated,” she said.

Ms. Warren also suggests staying away from raw foods because they can carry food-borne illnesses, exposing travelers to pathogens that might be problematic for people with compromised immune systems. Avoiding inflammatory triggers like concentrated sweets, fried greasy foods and alcohol is also beneficial. “Since air travel is inherently dehydrating, drinking plenty of water is key,” she adds.

Smartphones are a useful tool for travelers with a chronic health condition. Travel writer Jodi Ettenberg sells digital gluten-free restaurant cards in 12 languages on her website Legal Nomads, which explain celiac dietary restrictions and cross-contamination concerns using local food names.

Google Translate helps travelers communicate specific medical needs to flight attendants, waiters, hotel staff, and health care professionals. Booking accommodations with a kitchen via apps like Airbnb and VRBO allows travelers to cook suitable meals for themselves rather than relying on restaurants. (And it also gives you, a traveler, the opportunity to really embrace local cuisine and experiment with cooking it yourself.) When dining out, food-related apps such as Yelp, Happy Cow and HealthyOut (U.S. only) help locate restaurants that accommodate specific diets.

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